Happy Sunday: Hard Truths Edition

Let us pray for the people who are suffering.

Let us pray for the people who have lost their homes.

Let us pray for innocent men, women and children who have been murdered by twisted and spoiled fools.

Let us pray for those who have been harmed or killed by the acts of liars,  deceivers and self serving manipulators of the people’s trust.

We all know  about someone, somewhere, who is suffering from a grave and unjust loss.

We all know about a serious  wrong that has not been righted.

We all know that an act of nature cannot be concerned about human life.

We all know that the great works and best hopes of many people can be dashed into rubble with no notice and no warning.

Let us never be so arrogant and foolish as to claim that natural disasters are the wrath of God, even when they strike a concentration of  big mouthed people who are than willing to attribute God’s wrath to natural disasters… in other places.

Let us pray for all of the people who are suffering, no matter where they live or whom they may be.

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Happy Sunday: Happy New Year 2012

 What has been will be again, 
   what has been done will be done again; 
   there is nothing new under the sun.

—Ecclesiastes 1:9

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012

2012 will be the last year for standing up to the evil, greed and opportunism of the charismatic creeps who have ruined our nation and our world.

2012 will be a test for American Christians to reject the wicked agendas that are being pushed by extremist religious leaders. This is the year to start being the people that Jesus taught us to be. We have been wasting and betraying our greatest gift.

2012 must be the year when the majority of the voters step up and vote, not just for themselves and because of themselves, but with respect to the good of the nation and the good of their neighbors. Many will have to step in and help when corrupted local and state governments attempt to deny their enemies the right to vote.

2012 will be a year toward recovery only if  America is willing to do the  hard work needed to express the truth and the whole truth. The lies that the right has been pushing and the pseudo academic arguments that the left has pointlessly engaged in will simply not do.

2012 will be the year of the charismatic creep; the charismatic opportunist; the charismatic bully and the charismatic liar. If America cannot get off of its dependency on charisma, then 2o12 needs to be the year of the charismatic hero, the charismatic savior, and the charismatic leader of the majority of the people.

2012 is the last chance to force the government and the corporations to carry out the will of the  majority of the people. This will be the last year to make it so that the middle class constitutes the majority of the people. This is the last chance to save democracy as we know it. Continue reading

Happy Sunday: We Are Stewards Of The Earth

There has been a lot of talk about our responsibility for the planet. We cause a lot of damage in the course of living our lives. We contribute methane to the atmosphere as we live, process food, and die. The many animals  that we breed, tend and eat contribute methane to the atmosphere as they live, process food and die.

We generate technology, then throw it away when it no longer functions. We do not build our tools and toys to last. We do not repair and keep our tools and toys.  Our technology represents reformation and reformulation of the Earth’s substances in ways that have never happened before.

We make huge amounts of new substance, contribute huge amounts of new substance to the planet, and throw away huge amounts of new substance. Styrofoam and other foams that do not decompose, the plastics that offer so much convenience and the oil and gas that gives us so much mobility makes us happy while it all makes the planet sick.

We have severed ourselves from the Earth, from other life forms and from each other. When we immerse ourselves in the waters or play in the snow, it is with so much attention toward thrills, getting to somewhere, and kills that we do not appreciate or respect the land and life.

But how does our religion come into it? What is the connection between our faith in God and the Earth?

Continue reading

The Case Against The Death Penalty

From Harvard Law School Site

The death penalty is the last vestige of barbaric, unjust, racist and cruel America. We have trouble bringing some of the worst criminals back from other countries because we will kill them and the countries refuse to extradite. We have murdered people who would have been exonerated if today’s forensics technology could have been applied.

But, for some twisted and incomprehensible reasons, and in far too many cases, obsessive prosecutors and law enforcement officials fight to prevent the best forensic and legal technology from being used to start new trials or to give life sentences to defendants who face execution.

By executing the innocent or not proved guilty, we have become a bloodthirsty nation. In executing the innocent, we all become murderers no matter how we try to deny our responsibility.

Todd Willingham, from the Facebook Todd Willingham group

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READ MORE HERE!

Stealth Post: An Open Letter To The Congressional Black Caucus

 

 

Since 2005, I have believed that anyone who took on the presidency after the Bush-era would be a “lid loosener”. That person would work to undo as much of the damage as possible, but would be unlikely to turn the country around. It would be the second president after the Bush-era who would whip off that lid and reap the accolades and the rewards.

Or worse, the second president after President Obama would return to the path of destruction that Bush and the Republicans have carried out so well.

President Obama has done incredible work so far but the most remarkable problem is that we, the public, do not know it. No media source, except for MSNBC, has even touched the issue of the changes that he has made or the corrections that he has enacted. The same goes for Rep Pelosi, who has only been credited once with the accomplishments that she has made.
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Just as we sat back and watched Bush tear our country down, one big blast at a time, we sat back and allowed the charismatic creeps of the Tea Party work their way into power that goes far beyond their true numbers.
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In one respect, the media has painted a picture of President Obama and the Democratic Party as doing nothing but to pander to and cave in to the extreme right-wing on every issue. When it became clear that Obama was doing everything that he could to disassociate from the left and from Black America, the Black Caucus should have been as loud and demanding as the Tea Party, banging on the White House door, banging on every other door, and speaking up to represent  not just Black Americans, but all Americans.
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It is time for the Black Caucus to realize its full potential and to do just what it is doing: be heard, advocate for the invisible ones, and make the Democratic Party pay attention and show some respect.
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It is good that the Black leadership in Congress did not wait until it is too late to speak up and to make a difference.
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The potentially fatal blow to the odds of a second term for President Obama has come from his insulting and disastrous “sacrifice” message. He has shown an inability to leave academic behavior behind and to get into an executive behavioral mode.
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It is time for him to show some progress toward becoming one who executes, not one who stands behind the lectern, sits behind closed doors, or avoids getting up close and personal with the human beings in Congress or on the many “commissions” and “committees” that he is so fond of.
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He misses the point entirely, needs to stop lecturing, needs to learn the fine art of delegation, and must start listening.
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We are not his students. We are his teachers and school is in session.
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Worse is this never-ending call for “bipartisan” support that President Obama is never going to get. No great leader tolerates being humiliated again and again. No great leader uses capitulation as an ongoing strategy, but wisely does as Muhammad Ali did when he used the “Rope a dope” strategy against his opponent. The American people will tolerate an occasional “rope a dope” strategy, but only if the fighter wins.
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Worse than that has been a failure to even acknowledge us, as if we would jeopardize any of the benefits that he believed would be gained from relentless pandering to the extreme and racist right. Those people have made it perfectly clear that his demise is their first priority, yet he will not listen.
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What are we being asked to sacrifice in support of that kind of behavior? More poverty? More disenfranchisement? Fewer and fewer of us belonging to his beloved middle class?
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A call for sacrifice (as if we have not been sacrificing already) is the last thing that the formerly middle class, veterans, disabled workers, evicted homeowners, the unemployed, the ripped off, the hopeless, the students, the disenfranchised, the elderly, and any other exhausted citizen needs to hear.
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As an example of failure to execute, I have never seen worse misconduct and failure to perform from the claims processing wing of the VA. The VA Secretary is the most aloof, distant and publicly absent officer I have ever seen. There is no excuse, three years into a presidential term, for delays of 2 to 4 years for the same sloppy and corrupted veterans claims processing that was going on at the start of President Obama’s term.
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I will not be able to help with sacrificing for those who want to redistribute what is left of our national trust to the insanely greedy and unjustly rich. I truly resent being told to sacrifice even more to cover for the problems that I did not create, the disaster that I have no control over, and the political fortunes of anyone who panders to my worst enemies.
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I say to the Black Congressional Caucus,  “congratulations” for standing up. Congratulations for letting President Obama and the Democratic Party know that we can take our own direction.
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It makes me ill to think of losing President Obama and taking the risk of subjecting the nation to more of Bush-era politics.
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Be that as it may, congratulations, Rep Waters for having the courage to say the words:
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“Let” and “Go”.
But we have no more tolerance for cynical political marketing plots and ploys. This effort has to be  carried to the finish and failure is not an option. 
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Here are my comments on specific matters, for what these are worth.
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We need to recover as much of the looted national treasure as possible and to get it back into the national treasury. We need to put our national infrastructure ahead of global hegemony and interference. We need to put our politicians on notice that they answer to the people, not to the corporations.
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We need to stop feeding on those who engage in silly sex scandals and to go after those in high power and high office who have engaged in the most destructive of misconduct. There has been rank cowardice in these matters, and we never stopped wanting justice brought to those who have corrupted our government and bankrupted our nation.
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We need to end two pointless, costly wars and to stop funding the world’s dictators. We need to cut a nation’s foreign aid by $100,000 for every unskilled immigrant, opportunist, or asylum seeker that they send here. We need to cut a nation’s foreign aid by $500,000 for every citizen of theirs who is incarcerated in our prisons.
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We need to put people to work on our infrastructure before it collapses, but we need to do it right, putting auditors to work to recover the last penny of any fraud, waste and abuse of funds that occurs.
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While we work on our infrastructure, we need to start apprenticeships to create skilled workers in all fields. High school graduates have to be ready to go to work, not directly into massive debt to earn entry-level job credentials at expensive private technical schools. Strip out the garbage courses and teach those kids something that can help them get to work.
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End that general academic testing nightmare and restore the choice of a technical school track in high school education. Give the employers a tax break for funding college courses while an individual is working.
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Our environment is priceless. We have opportunities to clean up the environment and to manufacture the most technologically advanced “green” products. We can do this in urban centers and poor rural areas. We can put people back to work while we do it. 
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We need to punish the corporations that are hoarding stimulus finds, are engaging in overseas tax dodges, have sent jobs overseas, and have not created the jobs that they promised to create.
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We need to outlaw any government support or approval of financial products that are solely based on theoretical possibilities, and not on real goods or production. We need to regulate and enforce against predatory consumer banking schemes.
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We want it acknowledged that jobs that were sent overseas had been invented by, built by, and refined by American workers, not the corporations. We need to tap into that creativity, innovation and quality to get our jobs back. Give a painful financial consequence to any corporation that hands any more of our jobs and our brain trust over to another nation.
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We need veterans and Social Security cost of living calculations that cut out the costs of luxury items and consider only such costs as the food, transportation, housing, medical care and utilities that the majority of veterans and Social Security recipients actually spend their money on. Those costs rise every year.
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We want to shine a light on corporate lobbying and on the direct access that corporations have to Republican and other lawmakers. The lawmakers need to stop writing custom-made laws after secretive and unofficial meetings.
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Restore the will of the people, not the will of the corporations or the extremist and racist fringe as the guiding force in government leadership decisions. 
We need to get veterans their benefits decisions within 9 months, and to do so without the ineffective and corrupted claims processing bureaucracy and system that exists today.
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We need to break up the cozy relationships between the self-perpetuating “service organizations” and the Veterans Administration claims processors. Those service organizations have representatives who are not even doing the proper records requests, follow ups or case preparation. They simply lead the veterans into believing in them while discouraging the veteran from taking any action on their own.
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There must and end to bonuses that are paid to VA claims processors until the disastrous delays and problems are stopped, and claims are processed within 12 months.
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The veterans service organizations need to be audited and a claims processing success or failure rate identified. Publish the resulting scores to allow veterans to make informed choices.
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In summary, I applaud the Black Caucus for speaking up now, when their efforts will mean something. You must not let anyone or anything stop you in your progress, as you are now the only voice of we, the “invisible”, but definitely not helpless or powerless people.
Photo Credits: c2010 Edith R Allen, All rights reserved

Sunday: The Second Sunday

Children Day

We heard that we had killed a man

who was our sworn enemy

That he was buried at sea

after careful preparation according to his religion

As no country would take him;

So no country could make his body a shrine

We scream in joy/cringe in shame

that we killed our enemy

The contradictions of killing,

then ultimate respect for the dead

Tell us that we are sometimes human

Yes, we are sometimes human

Unless our enemy is a poor or dark skinned 12 year old

of our very own

Locked up in a children’s prison of our very own

Treated worse than enemies

who swear to kill us all

There is vastly more in the news and the forums

that we mistreat the mortal enemy

Than there is in the news and the forums

about our own children

This tells us that we are not fully human

We are in no way fully human

When our mortal enemy gets more care and respect

With burial at sea

and more glamorous ritual and care

Then our very own children

who are imprisoned, murdered, cremated and tossed

Like dust in the garbage

Like dust in the wind.

For the children.

The World’s children.

The children who are somewhow an easier

and more forgettable

and less reportable kill

Than killing evil men.

Over 2200 juveniles nationwide have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Children as young as 13 years old have been tried as adults and sentenced to die in prison, typically without any consideration of their age or circumstances of the offense.

Street Children in the Phillipines

The American Kids For Cash Scandal

Burma’s Refugee Children

The Killing of Brazilian Street Children

Tales of the VA: Part Two

A service connected veteran with a pending claim is in bad shape these days. The latest unconfirmed rumor is that all claims processing will be on hold until June. There are no news reports or investigations into the rumor, since the media is more concerned about Trump’s lying, Trumps tonsure or the BRITISH royal wedding.

The rumor has legs because we are being told that there will be an answer about our claims in “two months”.  This is obviously not a logical deadline and it makes no sense at all.

The problem is that veterans with pending claims are normally given random time frames and vague information about status of our claims.

How backlogged are veterans claims? Try 450,000 as of this month. Two factors: the increasing number and complexity of Iraq and Afghanistan cases, and the recent decision to expand compensation for Agent Orange veterans have flooded a system that cannot accommodate the new workload.

Of course, the wiser ones of us never try to go it alone. We get help from the most aggressive and effective Veteran’s Service Officer (VSO) that we can find.  Sometimes, we get ripped off for years of benefits because we cannot find a good VSO.

Even then, we sit in the dark with no idea as to whether our claim will be approved or denied. If the claim is denied (and many are automatically denied just for kicks), we file an appeal and go back to sit in our dark spaces.

An inquiry was made to the White House as to why we are supposed to sit in the dark for well over a year when no other government agency gets away with such secretive, random, and uninformative behavior. We should be able to know, at least every month, what is going on.

The White House sends lots of announcements and appeals from lower level staffers. The First Lady wants our support for a program, but no response to the inquiry has been forthcoming. A “contact me” page for General Shinseki seems to have been left off the VA.gov site.

One forum discussion indicates that he has not been that responsive to direct communications from vets, anyway.  So, while the General is getting some good marks for his overall work, uncommunicative executives are never highly regarded.

One very old myth goes like this: The veterans files are lined up in a vertical file cabinet. When a veteran goes it alone and calls their regional office to check on their claim, their file is pulled, the conversation is held and the file goes to the END of the line of files, where it has to start over and work forward from the beginning.

The cases and files that are first in the lineup were the ones where the veteran did NOT call to check. They eventually get processed. The veteran who checks once a month is sent to the end of the line, again and again where absolutely no work will get done for years.

Of course this is an unconfirmed story, but it has been repeated to me by several insiders over the last twenty years. Thus, the story has some very long legs.

There have been real VA scandals:  Two years ago, $24 million in Information and Technology office personnel bonuses, some of which were improperly given, led to an investigation of a retired VA official.  More recently,  claims documents were found in a shredder bin at the Detroit Regional offices.

The worst scandal is that no one, not even the hard working and long term VA employees know how to clear the backlog.

The biggest American disgrace is that only the “popular” soldiers are in the news and on people’s minds. These are the combat veterans who get the “popular” service connected conditions. The truth is that, for every photogenic and immediately threatened combat soldier, there may be a thousand more who work behind the scenes.

But Americans and the media pretend to not be aware of the “invisible” soldiers.

Support soldiers are exposed to toxic substances, work with highly explosive or volatile substances, and  work in horribly hazardous workplaces that don’t exist in the “real world”.  A workplace accident or injury in the military can be PHENOMINAL!

No soldier can sue in the same way as a civilian when there is damage from abuse of authority or damages from medical malpractice, denial of care or substandard care.

The VA is our only worker’s comp system, our only court,  and our only way to get justice and compensation for our service related conditions. And there is such a long history of lowballing soldiers, keeping us on a 40 year old compensation schedule, tying our cost of living increases to Social Security, and denying whatever could be denied, that it is a very dry appreciation for anything that we finally get.

Ironically, once we are in the system, the system works very well.

In the institution’s defense, the VA is charged with rooting out fraud and will not compensate for conditions that have no proof or factual support or for most preexisting and non duty related conditions.  Conditions that result from risky behavior or while on leave are also not service connected. Thus, the public trust is protected.

The claims processors are, right now, getting hundreds of new claims to pile on top of the hundreds of claims that they are already wallowing through.

The VA is one more of the nation’s institutions that was damaged beyond repair by the Bush II administration. And now, silly chicken-hawk Republicans are trying to gut the budget. Republicans must never have had to drive for two hours to get care in a crumbling VA hospital with old pus on the walls and facilities that look  like the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Some claims involve records that were burned up, lost, stolen, modified or held incorrect information.

Some claims involve terrorist attacks from decades ago, that occurred in friendly countries.

Some claims involve mentally ill veterans who have difficulty in processing any reality, let alone the realities of their service from 30 years ago.

Some claims involve the very young soldiers who have little life experience, little education and little help in planning for the drastically changed lives that lie ahead of them.

The oldest veterans come from every war, every dirty war and every secret war since the first Secretary of the Veterans Administration started decorating his office.

The youngest veterans have trouble growing facial hair, could get away with wearing training bras, or are living away from home for the first time in their lives.

There have always been some basic rules that any active duty soldier must follow before and immediately after they leave military service.

The first rule is to never assume that the Veterans Administration will deny compensation and pension for illness or injuries.

Sometimes, preexisting conditions are aggravated while in service. Sometimes,  service connected medical conditions do not manifest until the solder has left the military.  Sometimes military doctors fail to diagnose or recognize a medical condition. Sometimes there is medical malpractice, denial of care or poor management of hazardous or toxic work. Some of the work is experimental and unprecedented. Some of the work is in politically unstable foreign environments, extreme environments, and the worst environments.

So never sit in the dark. Never go it alone. Never give up the fight. Never leave a vet behind. Never violate the promise and never break the contract.

Here are some bits of advice that will help with veteran’s claims and benefits.



BEFORE LEAVING MILITARY SERVICE:

Get a complete physical. Make sure that the appropriate specialists and primary doctors take a last look at any existing medical conditions. Make note of even the smallest symptom or problem and make sure to bring them up during these final physicals and doctor’s visits.

Make your own copy of your complete medical record even if you are healthy.

If you plan to use the GI Bill for your continuing education, do your research and know what has to be done before you leave active duty.

In case there are no jobs available,  find out what Federal, state and local programs and services are available to tide you over.

Do try to start some form of savings program at least a year before leaving active duty.

AFTER YOU LEAVE MILITARY SERVICE

As soon as possible, visit your local Veterans Service Officer (VSO), register there,  and get counseling about benefits.

One of the last documents that you will receive during out processing is the DD214. This document is the “birth certificate” for proof of your military service. Each branch of the military has their own version of this form.

You will NOT want to go through what it takes to get a replacement for one of these, so make many copies and store them safely.

File a copy of the DD214 at your local county offices. Make sure to keep the original safe and secure. This document may be needed for employment, VA benefits, veteran’s job and education programs and other reasons.

IF THERE IS A SERVICE CONNECTED CLAIM OR ISSUE

Find a good VSO and never try to “go it alone”.

Never assume that it is all  “hopeless”.  Never stop fighting.

If a VSO is lazy, discouraging or anything less than a pit bull, then find a new one.

Ignore advertising by lawyers or firms that promise help. You should not have to pay a lawyer to file and follow up with your claim. VSOs are paid for by the state and they provide their services for free.

Do not fall prey to scams.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Check online or with local veterans groups to find out if an advertised service is a scam.

In some cases, a veteran will need to seek legal counsel, but those cases are either rare or are very complicated.

SENIORS, SPOUSES, DEPENDENT CHILDREN AND THE ELDERLY

Visit a benefits adviser at your nearest VA facility or Veterans Service office and get some counseling.

A lot of veterans, their spouses, their dependents, and their primary caregivers are completely unaware that VA Aid and Attendance,  will provide financial help for low income veterans who need home care.

Dependent children are entitled to some benefits. Compensation and Pension is adjusted for dependent children. Spouses of deceased veterans must know about their benefits.

Benefits Checkup has a way to find every Federal, state and local program available to seniors, including veterans. The person’s income and other non identifying information is entered and a list of programs with contact information will come up.

VISIT THE VA.GOV WEBSITE AND GET TO KNOW HOW IT WORKS

The VA.gov website goes into excruciating detail by providing all of the  complete regulations in PDF form. There is also official news and information about special or little known programs.

Never give up. Never leave anyone behind.